Animal Encounter


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Safe Haven

Endangered species, injured animals and farmyard pets have found a safe haven in the hills of Aley.

Animal Encounter, a refuge for animals and a wildlife awareness and educational centre, was founded in 1993 by Mounir and Diana Abi-Said. One of the few centers of its kind in Lebanon, and the region, it is testimony to its founders’ dedication and determination.

Initially, the Abi-Said’s backyard was the place of refuge for the many injured and abandoned animals brought to them by concerned citizens. But, with an ever-increasing number of animals requiring care, it soon became apparent that bigger premises were needed.

In December, 1997, the Municipality of Aley, along with the Canadian Embassy, Green Line Association, and the Bank of Kuwait and the Arab World, provided funding and a 2000m plot of land in Aley’s Ras el Jabal area (not far from the Symposium of Statues) – and Animal Encounter had a new home.

Some 30,000 students and visitors now pass through the gates and gardens of Animal Encounter every year.
Visitors can meet a menagerie of different animals – from jackals, baboons, foxes, red deer and bear to exotic and migratory birds such as pelicans, pheasants and partridges; native hyena, wolves, owls, eagles, reptiles and squirrels, and friendly farmyard sheep, goats, ducks and chickens.

Bears to Bats

Animal Encounter includes an educational centre and research library, aimed at increasing knowledge and awareness of both animals and Lebanon’s unusual diversity of flora. It includes interactive slide shows, films, books about animal wildlife and nature, the environment, and the relationship between animals, people, and the environment.

Activities are held at certain times of the year – from guided tours of the centre to seasonal events (Easter, Halloween, etc), nature walks, hiking and camping.

Animal Encounter has saved animals from circuses, farmers, hunters and taxidermists and released hundreds of birds of prey back into the wild, over the years.
Other animals like squirrels, porcupines and partridges are raised in the enclosure and released when they are old enough to survive in the wild. With their help, other species – such as bats and Persian squirrels – have been brought back from the edge of extinction.

Says Diana Abi-Said: “We also have a number of farm animals, because many of the young children visiting actually don’t know what sheep, horses, goats, or even dogs and cats are like; they just see pictures of them in books. Here they can experience them.”


Wildlife Mission

Animal Encounter’s mission is to advance understanding of wildlife by: 
1. Promoting awareness through education programs on biodiversity conservation, with a rich and diversified related topics and sessions, targeting all age groups, students and public, along with hands-on wildlife programs and environmental activities/games. A library with updated topics and issues is open for students and researchers.
2. Exploring different native animals and plants in Lebanon, through live tours in the center and walks in nature.
3. Protecting, propagating through captive breeding, and releasing wild birds and other animals when cured so that each of us make more environmentally sensitive decisions in our daily lives.

Back to the Wild

Says Mounir Abi-Said: “At Animal Encounter, we have a mission of spreading our conservation message, through environmental education and changing as much as we can of people’s attitudes towards wildlife. Surprisingly, the results jumped beyond our expectations. Our outreach programs attained more than 20,000 students /year and more than 7,000 visitors. As a part of a PhD research, we found through Animal Encounter awareness programs that more than 80% of the visitors changed their attitudes towards wildlife. 

“We made Animal Encounter a reference for wildlife lovers or for those who came across sick, injured, hunted animals needing special care and shelter.
“We have rehabilitated hundreds of injured migratory birds brought by concerned citizens who showed confidence in the conservation mission that we lead. The Captive Breeding program was another success: different animal species are breeding, like hyaenas, jackals…, and their offspring are being released back to the wild.”

"Promoting awareness among children is our priority … Children can have a huge impact on their parents’ attitude towards animals."

Diana Abi-Said

It is an animal preserve with an educational mission—to promote conservation and an understanding of endangered and indigenous animals.

“Promoting awareness among children is our priority… We cannot really reach out to older generations that were not raised with awareness of the environment. Working with this generation, however, produces a more positive response. Children can have a huge impact on their parents’ attitude towards animals.”

“The more you get in touch with animals, the more you realize how important they are to the environment.”

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Generous Gift

Although their hard work and dedication may not create headlines, Mounir and Diana Abi Said’s contribution to Lebanese wildlife, environment and education is a generous gift to current and future generations.

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Animal Encounter

When & Where


Monday – Friday 12–6PM
Saturday & Sunday 11AM–6PM

Phone – 03 667 355



Aley – Ras el Jabal

Picture of Heather & Sami El Jurdi

Heather & Sami El Jurdi

Founders • Archivists • Editors

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